NEW YORK — It was Tua Tagovailoa’s left arm that got him to New York. But it’s a scooter that is helping Alabama’s Heisman Trophy finalist get around the city.
Tagovailoa wheeled his way into interviews on Friday at the New York Stock Exchange. The sophomore quarterback wore a walking boot on his left leg, where he sustained a high ankle sprain early in Alabama’s win against Georgia in the SEC title game.
“They wanted me to lay off with the pressure on the leg,” he said. “… It’s cool to have a scooter, too.”
He underwent a procedure on the ankle earlier in the week and is now rehabbing in preparation for the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29. Coach Nick Saban said earlier this week that Tagovailoa was right on schedule. Some Alabama players have had the same procedure and returned within two weeks. There’s nearly four weeks between when Tagovailoa sustained the injury and when Alabama will play in the College Football Playoff semifinal against Oklahoma.
He doesn’t expect to have any trouble recovering in time to play.
“All I know is I’ll be back for the game,” he said.
The Crimson Tide gave sent the star quarterback with more than just a boot and a scooter, though. He also had head athletic trainer Jeff Allen as part of his entourage. Allen also traveled with him to Atlanta earlier this week for ESPN’s College Football Awards show. He was named Division I athletic trainer of the year by his peers earlier this year at the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Convention.
The schedule for Heisman trophy finalists keeps Tagovailoa busy, but Allen is there to help with his rehab whenever time permits. He said Allen is his “new best friend.”
“Any chance that I get to go back to my room, Jeff is with me all the time,” Tagovailoa said. “It’s something I don’t like but I’m very appreciative of it. If it’s going to get me a lot better quicker, then I’m more than open to it.”
Tagovailoa and fellow finalists Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday afternoon. As Tagovailoa wheeled through the stock exchange, someone shouted “Roll Tide!” from the floor. He joked that the grey boot won’t match his burgundy jacket he plans on wearing to the ceremony Saturday night.
He could, presumably, become the first Heisman Trophy winner on a scooter. Tagovailoa walked with the boot for short distances, but mostly used the scooter to move around Friday.
“Life throws problems at you sometimes and it’s how you deal with it,” he said. “It’s how you go about the adversity that you’re dealt with. I, unfortunately, was dealt with this. Just trying to get better.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.